Large scale sweeping landform with an open character
created by exposed gritstone moors at an altitude
of 400-450m, deeply trenched by narrow valleys and
Mosaic of mixed moorland and blanket bog
with enclosed pasture of varying qualities at lower
elevations, largely defined by drystone walls.
Valuable wildlife habitats on the open moorland
and the moorland fringe including semi-natural boggy
mires, acid flashes and wooded cloughs.
Reservoirs, common throughout the area.
Densely populated valley bottoms with stone
buildings extending along valley sides, set against
the backdrop of the moorland tops.
Gritstone towns centred around key features
of industrial heritage such as textile mills and
other industrial development mainly in the valleys
but with a group of older settlements on the moorland
Main road, rail and canal routes located
along valley bottoms, with historic packhorse trails
traversing the exposed moorland tops.
Intrusive features, including windfarm developments,
numerous transmission masts, overhead power lines
and sandstone, gritstone and clay quarries, mainly
on the fringe of the area.
Extensive views from elevated locations in
area lies between the northern boundary of the Peak
District National Park and the southern boundary
of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It lies between
the great conurbations of Lancashire and Greater
Manchester to the west and West Yorkshire to the
East. Over 7 million people live within an hours
drive of its centre and the conurbations generate
increasing demands for transport, mineral extraction,
power transmission and generation, urban encroachment
as well as an intense pressure for recreation, sport
This is a large scale sweeping landscape of exposed
upland moorland and pasture. The area shares many
characteristics with the Bowland Fells and the Dark
Peak but, the evidence of man's intrusion into this
landscape has removed the sense of unspoilt wilderness
which distinguish the other regions.
Agriculture in the majority of this area is limited
to sheep grazing on upland pasture with some beef
and a little small scale diary in the valley bottoms.
The production of eggs, chicken meat and pig production
is also of considerable importance in some areas.
The area supports a peculiar and unique form of
part time farming economy with the vast majority
of the holdings part time and smaller. In landscape
terms this is reflected in small fields defined
by stone walls and post and wire fencing often in
poor condition suggesting a marginal economic viability.
There is a dynamic relationship between different
types of moorland vegetation with areas of heather
and grassland fluctuating in response to changing
management regimes. In the north east, the valleys
of the Aire and the Wharfe are bounded in placed
by steeply sloping sides with extensive areas of
landslip eg Ilkley, between Keighley and Bingley,
which support permanent grassland, sheep grazing
and some dairying.
This area is a valuable water catchment area and
as such contains a large number of reservoirs which
form a major contribution to the overall landscape
The moorland plateau is dissected by three main
river systems which drain eastward, the Aire, the
Colne and the Calder. The valleys of the Roach and
the Thame drain the western and south western parts
of the area and drain to the west and south west.
The valleys themselves are heavily populated and
contain the major communication routes with the
exception of the main trans-Pennine route the M62
which crosses the tops between Huddersfield and
Rochdale. In general, settlements have been contained
by the harsh topography of the steep valley sides.
However, the confluence of the Worth and Aire valleys
is associated with a gently sloping alluvial fan
raised about the level of the floodplain which has
allowed the town of Keighley to expand rapidly and
become a large sprawling conurbation. The moorland
plateau affords extensive views across these valleys
and outwards the plains of Lancashire and the low
lying conurbations of the woollen towns in Yorkshire.
This further reduces the sense of isolation associated
with other upland moorland locations. There are
many other man-made influences which detract from
the natural beauty of this area. Quarrying is in
the main restricted to the moorland fringe with
the exception of the heavily quarried valley at
Whitworth. Other intrusions include wind farms,
transmitter masts and in several places, particularly
to the west of Bradford and above Bacup large spates
of 400kv overhead power lines which become prominent
features visible from long distances. Despite this
there is a sense of grandeur and spaciousness to
be found in these moorland tops.
The area has a strong industrial heritage associated
with the textile, engineering and manufacturing
industries. It is in fact the seat of the woollen
and cotton textile industry and the landscape reflects
the transformation from cottage industries to much
larger commercial industries. Indeed, the central
feature to the majority of the towns and villages
which line the valley floors are the textile mills
which dominate the urban skyline and dwarf the stone
terraces which radiate from it. The smoke blackened
terraces with their sloping rooflines extend up
the valley sides to the moorland edge.
the middle of the region, around Haslingden and
Ramsbottom, thick, coarse-grained sandstones ('gritstone')
are generally horizontal and separated by softer
mudstone and siltstone beds. This creates a terraced
landscape of plateaux and interlocking escarpments
corresponding to the layers of sandstone and mudstone.
Isolated beds of sandstone also form mesa-shaped
hills across the area. The region is cut by numerous
faults and has several deeply-trenched glacial erosion
features such as Cliviger Gorge. To the south of
the area, as it passes between Rochdale and Huddersfield,
the Pennines are at their narrowest. The slopes
to the west are steeper than those to the east.
Accordingly, the scarps on the west are less populated
and elevated. One of the most prominent of these
escarpments is Blackstone Edge, west of Huddersfield.
The escarpment is formed by Kinderscout Grit and
was referred to by Defoe as the English Andes. Between
here and the western edge of the Yorkshire coalfields
there is a succession of similar crag-capped edges
running parallel to the main valleys, eg Colne and
To the north east of the area the distinctive long
ridge of Millstone Grit, Rombalds Moor, is separated
from the core of the Southern Pennines by the valley
of the River Aire. Glacial till occurs within the
Aire Valley but is largely absent on the upland
areas of Rombalds Moor and Skipton Moor. The valley
is relatively wide with flat valley bottoms enriched
with alluvium. During the last ice-age glacial moraine
ridges blocked drainage of the valley forming a
series of glacial lakes, the deposits of which are
preserved beneath the alluvium.
Familiar features of this region are waterfalls.
The alternate bedding of the hard grit and the softer
shales promote their development, such as Lumb Falls
near Hebden Bridge and falls in Marsden Clough,
at Holmbridge. Other waterfalls, such as Dolly Folly,
near Meltham, are created where a fault line crosses
the valley bringing grit against shale, resulting
in massive gritstone walls over thirty feet.
and Cultural Influences
transformation of the landscape in the 18th and
19th centuries that resulted from a switch from
hand loom weaving to the factor system has left
a legacy in the area in which villages, enclosures,
commons, pack horse trails and canals are preserved
in the landscape where convincing glimpses of a
much older, prehistoric past can also be discerned.
Historically access to the area was poor with little
more than packhorse routes traversing the moorland
tops. However, there is evidence that a Roman road
cuts across the moors, west of Haslingden, linking
Manchester to Ribchester, and the Wharfedale and
Airedale valleys have served as important routeways
across the Pennines from the earliest times.
Agriculture, based on sheep and cattle has always
been an important activity. Sheep grazing on the
moorland commons was ad hoc and fluctuated in response
to climatic and economic changes, resulting in abandoned
stone farmsteads and irregular, degraded stone wall
enclosures dotted across the plateaux. Many of the
abandoned homesteads were also caused by deliberate
depopulation by the early water companies. In contrast
the relatively better quality land to the north
east gave rise to extensive Parliamentary enclosure
which has resulted in strong regular patterns of
medium sized walled fields on the lower plateaux
and slopes. The dramatic landscape of the region
has attracted the attention of several literary
figures, most notably the Bronte sisters who lived
in Haworth and used the surrounding landscape as
a setting for many of their novels, such as Jane
Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Earlier it impressed
Daniel Defoe and more recently Ted Hughes. This
association with the Brontes is a major tourist
attraction of the area and many of the road signs
are in several languages.
The steep sided valleys are now densely populated
as a result of the rapid expansion of small villages
involved in the textile industry. The growth of
the textile industry concentrated people into the
industrial valleys. Evidence of this changing society
is seen by the ruins of isolated farmsteads and
cottages on surrounding hillsides. The population
of these valleys steadily increased and the expansion
of home weaving led to the building of stone cottages
with large "weavers' windows". The introduction
of water power caused the industry to prosper still
further in these valleys beside the rapid streams,
which later supplied the lime-free water needed
for other stages in textile manufacture. These settlements
are dominated by large mill buildings with chimneys
and extensive rows of terraces clinging onto the
hillsides. The greatest expansion of the industry
took the bulk of the population on to the lower
ground farther to the east, where the valleys open
out on to the Coal Measures. The decline of the
Lancashire textile industry followed the slump of
1920. Today, some mills have found alternative uses
but many remain derelict.
The valley sides also bear the scars of extractive
industries such as stone quarrying and coal mining
at Bacup, Haslingden, Edenfield, Cliviger and in
the Aire Valley between Keighley and Bingley many
of which have been in operation from the early 18th
A result of this industrial expansion has been the
establishment of an improved communication network
including the East Lancashire Railway, Rochdale
Canal and upgraded 'A' roads and bypasses.
in the South Pennines is either peripheral or the
upland core or strung out along the major valleys
that penetrate it. Nodal points at valley junctions
are especially important, as at Littleborough, Todmorden,
Hebden Bridge and Keighley. There is a fringe of
smaller, intermediate settlements at mid height
between this outer fringe and the central core.
It spreads up the slopes from the major settlements.
This mid height zone is wider in the east of the
area than it is in the west, thus confirming to
the physiography of the area. Construction is predominantly
out of local gritstone and in a vernacular style
that complements the natural features and contributes
to the overall aesthetic quality of the landscape.
The settlement pattern has evolved from a dual economy
in which textiles predominated. As textile manufacturing
was mechanised settlements evolved and expanded
at sites where power, water at first, then coal
Small towns, such as Haslingden, Rawtenstall, Bacup,
Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, line the deeply incised
valleys forming linear bands of development along
valley bottoms. These towns are often industrial
in origin deriving power from the rivers for the
textile industry and exploiting the natural resources
for quarrying and mining. The skyline of these settlements
is often dominated by the mill chimneys which tower
above the small stone terraces. The town of Keighley
in the Aire Valley underwent rapid expansion during
the 19th and early 20th centuries, based on engineering
and manufacturing. Because of the gentler topography
the town has been able to sprawl out in contrast
to the previously mentioned settlements. With easily
the most dominating tower in the central area of
the Southern Pennines being Stoodley Pike.
area is predominantly upland heather moorland, acid
grassland and rough pasture although some of the
heather moor has been lost to grassland in many
areas due to changes in management. The effects
of enclosure, over-grazing, uncontrolled burning
and atmospheric pollution have reduced the once
varied vegetation to one dominated by purple moor-grass
(Molina caerulea), mat-grass (Nardus stricta) and
cotton grass (Eriophorum spp.). The core of the
area however supports the mosaic of natural upland
habitats which include blanket bogs, heather moor
and wet heath which are rare enough to be of European
The main agricultural land use is sheep grazing.
The field pattern is small to medium and defined
by stone walls and post and wire fencing. These
are often degraded in many areas. To the east in
Airedale trees become more frequent than on the
uplands, birch and oak being abundant. Much of the
land on these lower slopes is improved pasture with
well maintained field boundaries.
The area is an important water catchment area with
numerous reservoirs in the head streams of the major
river valleys, and as such is crossed by many drainage
channels which feed into these reservoirs, such
as at Rivington, Haslingden Grane, Belmont and Entwistle.
Woodland in the area is sparse and in the west predominantly
comprises 20th century coniferous plantations associated
with the reservoirs. In the eastern part of the
area there are more nineteenth century beech and
sycamore woods. Occasional wooded cloughs extending
to these altitudes are often grazed and in poor
There are many quarries in this area, most of which
are abandoned stone quarries, largely covered with
vegetation and grazed by sheep or completely infilled.
However, there are several active quarries on the
moorland edge at Bacup, Haslingden, Edenfield, towards
Cliviger and in the vicinity of Haworth.
The area contains several transmission masts, a
24 turbine windfarm at Cliviger and the 22 turbine
windfarm at Ovenden Moor. There are also several
country parks at lower elevations developed near
reservoirs for example at Lever Park, Jumbles and
Fluctuating transitional moorland edge due to conversion
and reversion of rough grazing and pasture.
Over-grazing of areas of common land by large
Major shifts in land ownership as farms are
taken over by non-farmers.
Conversion of barns and derelict farmsteads.
Introduction of windfarms and cellular phone/radio
Decline in the textile industry and the evolution
and transformation of the industrial base in the
Dereliction or conversion of many mills for
Urban fringe pressure around larger conurbations
resulting in erosion of paths, fly-tipping and disturbance
Growth of recreation as a major land use
bringing a potential for erosion and increased car
Development of a by-pass network, which is
incomplete and results in bottlenecks on unimproved
The significant pressure for improved access
to this area has resulted in proposals for the M65
cross-Pennine link. However this proposal is on
hold but would have a considerable impact upon the
landscape character and future development of the
The reduction in sheep grazing on open moorlands
would increase biodiversity, contribute to landscape
character, and encourage traditional management
of heather moorland.
The sympathetic conversion of redundant farm
and mill buildings should be considered on the edge
of urban areas. The retention and reuse of industrial
heritage features, particularly mill buildings in
valley bottoms, is important.
The management marginal farmland subject
to pressures from its urban fringe location should
The appropriate treatment of redundant quarries
should be considered. This might include restoration
in sensitive locations or ecological enhancement.
These sites may be of geological importance, of
scientific or educational value.
There are opportunities to retain and manage
ecologically rich acid flushes, wooded cloughs,
and existing woodlands. There is scope for the creation
of native woodland.
The retention and restoration of traditional
stone wall field boundaries and fences is important.
J J, (1976), A History of Lancashire, Phillimore
and Co, London.
Kenyon. D (1991), The Origins of Lancashire, Manchester
University Press, Manchester and New York.
Lancashire County Council (1993), Lancashire Structure
Plan 1991-2006. Report 17: Landscape Evaluation.
Lancashire County Council (c 1990), Lancashire A
Trueman. A E (1972), Geology and Scenery in England
and Wales, Penguin Books Ltd, Middlesex.
Whittow. J (1992), Geology and Scenery in Britain,
Chapman and Hall, London.
Waters. C N and others (1996), A geological background
for planning and development in the City of Bradford
Metropolitan District. British Geological Survey
Technical Report WA/96/1/